View London interview
by unknown at this time
Radical horror film directors and twin sisters Jen and Sylvia Soska were joined by Katharine Isabelle, the star of their intense horror American Mary, to chat with View about making underground horror films, breaking out against the constraints of Hollywood and the appeal of the culture of body modification as depicted in their film.
Where did the idea for American Mary come from, first of all?
Sylvia Soska It was a lie to Eli Roth, when he asked us what other scripts we had. I had nothing, but I didn’t have the balls to admit that to him, so I made it up – I gave him a list of anything I knew I could make up in two weeks with Jen and he picked the one about the medical student. I said, ‘You know what? If there’s any spelling mistakes, I’m going to be so embarrassed. Give me just two weeks and we’ll have it’. And I go over to Jen and I was like, ‘We need to write a script in two weeks – I made a really big lie’. And we had studied body modification before and we were going through so many things with trying to get our first film out, going into adventures and getting frustrated in Hollywood, nothing really coming of it, family that’s ailing and I think because we had that gun to our head, everything that we were going through went into that script at that time and it became very personal, although I didn’t realise until we were already in production and then I was like, ‘Oh my God, we can’t make this, this is embarrassing!’
Katharine Isabelle ‘This is about me!’
Sylvia Soska Yeah! But it came from a lie that we pulled off and then later I admitted to him that, ‘That movie that I sent you and said that I had just sitting around with my pile of scripts, I made up that day’ and he said, ‘Good, you pulled it off. I would have never guessed’. He’s like, ‘That’s all you have to do, if you have the opportunity, you take it and you make the most of it.’
Jen Soska Yeah, your only downfall is if you can’t pull it off. Don’t talk big if you can’t do it!
And how did you get involved, Katharine?
I was emailed the script with a little side-note [saying] ‘Oh, it’s two identical twin sister filmmakers, writers’, ‘Oh, great, first time, that’ll be fucking awful…’ and I only had my Blackberry and I was actually in bed and I thought, ‘Well, I’ll just scan the first couple of pages until it’s complete shit and then at least I can say I read it’ and I ended up reading the whole thing – it was about 190 pages at that time and I ended up reading the entire thing on my Blackberry, twice. And I was completely struck by it and I sent it to my father who’s been a filmie for life and had him back me up that it was actually amazing and very, very smart and something I should absolutely do, regardless of the fact that I didn’t think they’d ever actually get the film made with money and people and cameras and lights and things.
And then I had a meeting with them and we ended up staying out until about five in the morning and talking and falling madly in love with each other. And then it was about nine months before the movie was actually made and I was sort of being a bit of a realist and maybe a sprinkle of a pessimist and I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, I know that’ll never [happen]’. People were like [dumb voice] ‘Why are you so pessimistic?’, I’m like, ‘Dude, because I don’t want to get my hopes up about something that I love so deeply, that I would love so passionately to do, when I know that the chances of actually getting it made – and even if it does get made, it’s probably going to end up being shit, because we won’t have enough time or enough money or enough skill in any department to actually pull it off’. And so, needless to say, when it actually isn’t a complete pile of shit, I was very happy’.
You mentioned the film was very personal; can you elaborate on that? How much of the film, for example, is a comment on your experiences in the film industry?
Jen Soska It’s very much an analogy for us in the film industry. We started off as, you know, failed actors and models and when we were young and we were identical twins, we got cutesy kind of roles but then as you start to get a little bit older, they become very sexualised and very quickly there’s a lot of people in this industry that are happy to take advantage of people who are young and inexperienced and will listen to somebody say, ‘Oh, I’m a famous photographer and I can get you this and that’ in exchange for trying to push what your moral boundaries are. Thankfully, we’ve always had each other, so any trouble we’ve started to get ourselves into, we’ve quickly been able to get ourselves out of.
Sylvia Soska We found our real home in independent horror, which we used body modification as an analogy for, because it was always such a struggle, and it was like, ‘You have to do mainstream’. And I’ve had the blessing of knowing a lot of really amazing doctors and also knowing they’re really weird and they’re really fucked up, and I was like, ‘This would be a very interesting way to have these thoughts, which I’m already having and express it, in a way’. Almost every single thing that the doctors say in the movie, I’ve overheard a doctor saying, and I hope people keep saying weird things in front of me. I kind of dread some of the family doctors going there, and some of the surgeons I know watching the movie and being like, ‘I paint people being eaten by bears, why is this in your film, in this rape party?’, ‘I don’t know, you’re a great surgeon though. Yay! Now you’re famous!’